Theater Mirror - December 8, 2003
8 December '03
Okay, when I finally finished a long Cricket's Notebook catch-up entry two weeks ago, I resolved to restructure my life. Rather than trying to review every interesting play I see, I thought it would be better to to do a regular column (obviously on Mondays) that could highlight however many excellent experiences I'd had that week, but would be something free enough to note trends and generalities, as well as dwelling on significant details. I resolved to start on the 24th of November.....
And then I played hookey.
Instead of the first column, I woke up incredibly early and began writing down random chapters for what may turn into a sort of panoramic novel (Working title: "THE GREAT AMERICAN DIRTY BOOK"). So, sue me: I'm late.
These were the shows or events I saw during the time, recorded in my "Dance-Card" for IRNE-Award memory purposes. Since I also include panels, parties, and similar events in this list --- places and times I learn new things about theater --- I've also tried to keep track by the numbers of the actual theatrical performances I've attended. Here's the harvest for the past two weeks:
21 nov WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Devanaughn Theatre 121
22 nov BOSTON FRINGE II Company One BCA 122
28 nov ANGER BOX TheatreZone CHELSEA 123
30 nov MY LIFE WITH THE KRINGLE KULT Boston Theatre Works BCA 124
3 dec SNOW IN JUNE American Repertory Theatre LOEB DRAMA CENTER 125
4 dec THE CREATION OF THE WORLD & OTHER BUSINESS Theatre Cooperative 126
5 dec SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Longwood Players CAMBRIDGE FAMILY YMCA THEATRE 127
The first three on this list are typical of the "tiny-company" diversity of the Boston theatrical scene: nothing unites these shows or companies save their excellence and the economy of means dictated by house-size and budgets.
The early Albee play's set is a living-room, and the Devanaughn production put the action right in the audience's laps. The first time, I saw it that way when The Atma Theatre did it in a coffee-house space in a church on Charles Street, and then there was a Delvena Theatre production in the tiny Leland space at the BCA. It's gotten so that I think of this living-room in terms of exposed-brick walls!
And I wonder if it would work at all in a house the size of The Huntington or The Colonial. Here Paula Carter made the under-written part of Honey --- the out-of-it young wife who can't hold her liquor --- a full, working member of the quartet.
*** *** ***
The "Boston Fringe" production seems, in retrospect, to be Company One hoping to prove they're not alone. The six other companies invited to show their wares shared a willingness to experiment in staging, to use poetry, and to bring cultural and political relevence into the artistic mix. The single-set and single-lighting restriction for all seven short plays, varying from a monologue to a twelve-member movement-piece, probably posed an organizational nightmare, but everything went smoothly and the only problem was an unexpected unevenness of audience. Two African-American companies (Tricord Productions & New African Company) surveyed the lives of Black Folk with poetic insight; Zeitgeist dealt with the essence of torture through the eyes of Harold Pinter; Company One juxtaposed interviews with two unsuccessful Palestinian suicide-bombers with those with three Israeli soldiers --- each set done separately as first and last pieces in the evening; Mill 6 Collaborative played a delightful game with theatrical reality; Hysterical Performances did a women's play; and CentaStage brought the work of a Boston playwright (Kathleen Rogers) to the festivities.
These many short-play anthologies in and around Boston (The Marathon the best known) make an undeniable statement of the unfunded vitality of theater as a compelling art in this city.
*** *** ***
"Anger Box" out in Chelsea was also a confirmation of the strength of small theatres. TheatreZone was for years the most consistently successful (in terms of audiences as well as artistically) of the many companies working in the tiny Actors' Workshop before it moved to the South Station area. When they moved to a permanent home in Chelsea --- at the far foot of the Tobin Bridge --- I thought they were crazy and that I'd never see them again. Wrong! The company has ferried me now to two excellent productions (this and "Dinner with Friends") in a warm, delightful new space. Their Artistic Direcor Danielle Fauteux Jacques has called many of "the usual suspects" back to the new stage, added a great art-gallery/lobby that makes waiting for the house to open a pleasure, and the support from the city for this Chelsea Theatre Works is healthy.
Jeff Goode's "Anger Box" is ten incisive monologues on the conflicted nature of God, each one pushing a valid thesis to its ludicrous edge. From "Fucking Satan" to "Eat Your Cheerios, Jesus" to "Santa Worshipper" the irreverent eye of Jeff Goode (whose "The Eight" --- monologues for Santa's reindeer --- is an "Anything But A Christmas Carol!" godsend!) makes sense of satire.
Of course, my recent acceptance that a declaration (at fourteen) that "if God really exists, He is a monster I'd rather do without" was right after all and, for me, atheism is The One True Way --- that mind-set made me perhaps the perfect audience for this show!
*** *** ***
In "My Life with The Kringle Kult" Rick Park and John Kuntz re-examine the Santa myth in their unique but familiar styles. I must note here that Laura Napoli, in addition to her other talents, brought to this show the most beautiful legs I have seen on any stage since Blythe Danner left The Theatre Company of Boston to become Gwynneth Paltrow's mom.
And that takes me up to last Monday.....
*** *** ***
On the 3rd, Will Stackman called saying there was an unused ticket to the A.R.T. begging if I wanted it. The show turned out to be a sort of Chinese Operetta called "Snow in June" The star here was a (prophetic!) above-the-ankle fall of stage-snow through which four actors slowly pushed themselves with highly stylized sloth while a dozen fresh-faced young Americans did ensemble martial-arts choreography and exaggerated posings. The good news was I caught up on needed sleep, but the bad was that I wasn't horizontal.
The A.R.T. again locked a number of much-needed doors before and after the performance to turn the Loeb's lobby into a banquet-hall, making a full audience of standing-o enthusiasts into a herd of bewildered cattle deprived of access to Loeb's bathrooms.
A woman ahead of me, as I tried to warn people swimming upstream that the doors they sought were locked, said "I'm not coming to these things anymore."
*** *** ***
The next night at The Theatre Cooperative I was allowed to see a brush-up/full-dress rehearsal of Arthur Miller's own meditation on God "The Creation of The World and Other Business," directed by Fred Robbins and with several old friends in the cast.
The evening turned out to have a sort of backstage plot-within-a-plot.
The reason for the rehearsal was to allow Stacy Fischer, with only a couple of weeks of preparation, to fit herself into the big role of Eve. (Chinasa Ogbuagu got a role in a production in New York she couldn't ignore.)
Fischer is always a fascinating performer, with energy and sincerity in every line. She seems always to be surprised to learn something, either from or about the other characters, or by something within herself. And to step from the prestigious Lyric Stage of Boston to the Theatre Cooperative of Somerville to fill an unexpected hole speaks as well of the healthy human impulses of Boston's theater people.
The same extra-production drama was provided at Boston Theatre Works' "Kringle Kult" production, when Artistic Director Jason Southerland was wheeled into the BCA Theatre in a wheelchair aslights were dimming. The night before someone backed into his motorcycle leaving him with his left knee-cap and right collar-bone broken --- yet he came to see his show.
*** *** ***
For their first non-musical production, The Longwood Players picked John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation" --- a huge-cast examination of gullibility and contemporary values that, to my eye, escaped Director Lisa Hackman's ability to knit loose ends into a comprehensible whole. I found myself thinking, either about the ideas played with in the show, or about a theory I have that flat-floor theatres have high stages to lift the action up where back-row people can see it over the heads of those in front, while those who are in front see the action only down to the ankles or the knees.
*** *** ***
Sunday night, yet again, I did not see "Angels in America I" on HBO. However, there was a detailed precis of the show in last Sunday's New York TIMES that really makes me regret that I've never seen it. Even the handful of lines quoted in the article reinforces a respect for Kushner's commitment to unpleasant truth and kindles an awe of his succinct poetry. If the show turns into a commercial DVD, I'll buy it and take it to a friend who owns a t-v set, which I don't.
*** *** ***
Well, that's a pretty good beginning for this column, I think. Plays may get shorter notice than even a Quick-Take would give, but there are, some weeks, things that are more important overall than whether or not I liked a particular play or production.
For that reason I'm glad I found a reason to keep a list of everything I've seen. It allows the pleasure of remembering shows. And when I enter shows in this list, I make it a point to keep a separate list of "Memorable Shows" that might help make the IRNE Nomination Process a little bit easier.
But it won't be easy this year!Just look at The Memorable so far:
15 jan WAITING FOR GODOT New Repertory Theatre
17 jan VIRTUAL REALITY & OBSERVATORY CONDITIONS Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL
5 feb THE SHAPE OF THINGS SpeakEasy Stage Co BCA
12 feb THE VISIT Northeastern Dept. of Theatre
14 feb HOWIE THE ROOKIE Sugan Theatre Company
21 feb CHICAGO Encore Theater Company ELIOT HALL
22 feb CHAIN Zeitgeist BCA
28 feb NO NIGGERS, NO JEWS, NO DOGS New Repertory Theatre
6 mar COYOTE ON A FENCE Boston Theatre Works TREMONT THEATRE
16 mar 2 LIVES Lyric Stage of Boston Inc.
20 mar A CLASS ACT SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA
29 mar TWELFTH NIGHT Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL
5 apr ROMEO AND JULIET The Footlight Club
12 apr MARATHON Stoneham Theatre TREMONT THEATRE
17 apr THERE ARE STONES IN HEAVEN FOR THE THUNDER Pilgrim BCA
18 apr FIORELLO! Arlington Friends of The Drama
19 apr TRUE WEST Acme Theater Productions
24 apr BALLPLAYER Soolman Productions CHARLESTOWN WORKING THEATER
25 apr SWEENEY TODD New Repertory Theatre
26 apr THE LIVING ROOM Chimaera Physical Theater PILGRIM BCA
1 may ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Turtle Lane Playhouse
3 may FOOL FOR LOVE Industrial Theatre
31 may PERSONAL DEMONS Bridge Theatre Company PLAYWRIGHTS'THEATRE
12 jun RUTHLESS SpeakEasy BCA
13 jun SINGIN' IN THE RAIN! Reagle WALTHAM
14 jun A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE The Footlight Club
11 jul OKLAHOMA! Turtle Lane Playhouse
12 jul OKLAHOMA! Turtle Lane Playhouse
24 jul JESUS HOPPED THE 'A' TRAIN Company 1 BCA
31 jul THE TRESTLE AT POPE LICK CREEK Turnstyle Theatre Project ACTORS' WORKSHOP
2 aug STALLS & I HAD A PEN SO I HAD TO WRITE SOMETHING Theatre Project ACTORS' WORKSHOP
16 aug BREATH OF KINGS Shakespeare East ACTORS' WORKSHOP
28 aug PACIFIC OVERTURES North Shore Music Theatre
30 aug TWELFTH NIGHT Publick Theatre
6 sep THE LANGUAGE OF KISSES Basement on The Hill BCA
11 sep A CHORUS LINE Bay Colony Productions THE ORPHEUM Foxborough
22 sep ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA Boston Theatre Works TREMONT THEATRE
26 sep I GO SOLO Essayons Theatre Company LELAND BCA
1 oct A GIRL'S WAR New Repertory Theatre
3 oct THE CREDEAUX CANVAS Zeitgeist Stage Company BCA
5 oct A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE Sugan/SpeakEasy BCA
10 oct NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY Arlington Friends of The Drama
11 oct MEMPHIS North Shore Music Theatre
24 oct ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST Poets' Theatre @ JIMMY TINGLE'S
25 oct TONGUE OF A BIRD Theatre Cooperative PEABODY HOUSE
26 oct BOOK OF DAYS Lyric Stage of Boston Inc
26 oct BLITHE SPIRIT Empty Space Theatre DEDHAM
7 nov THE WOMEN Footlight Club
13 nov BOSTON FRINGE I Company One BCA
15 nov JULIUS CAESAR Shakespeare Now! PINE MANOR COLLEGE Chestnut Hill
16 nov FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Turtle Lane Playhouse
21 nov WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Devanaughn Theatre
22 nov BOSTON FRINGE II Company One BCA
28 nov ANGER BOX TheatreZone CHELSEA
Do YOU have a list, or a pile of programs? What golden moments can you recall from them? What's been memorable for you this year?
( a k a larry stark )